U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to review Louisiana abortion law nearly identical to Texas law it struck down in 2016

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The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to review the constitutionality of a Louisiana abortion law that requires doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

The Louisiana law is nearly identical to a Texas law struck down by the high court in 2016 in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, report the New York Times, the Washington Post and CNN.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at New Orleans upheld the Louisiana law in September 2018, reasoning that it had a different impact than the Texas law. At most, the 5th Circuit said, 30% of women in Louisiana will be affected by the new law, “and even then not substantially.”

The Supreme Court had struck down the Texas law by a 5-3 vote with Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in the majority. Since then, Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh replaced Kennedy, and Justice Neil M. Gorsuch filled the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

The court had stayed implementation of the Louisiana law during appeals in a 5-4 vote in February. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was among those who voted to stay the law, although he dissented in Hellerstedt.

According to the New York Times, Roberts’ stay vote doesn’t necessarily mean he will join the court’s liberal justices to strike down the Louisiana Law.

“Instead, he might have meant only to ensure an orderly process in which the Supreme Court, rather than an appellate panel, makes the momentous decision of whether to limit or overrule a recent Supreme Court precedent,” the New York Times reports.

The Louisiana law requires doctors who perform abortions in the state to hold “active admitting privileges” at a hospital within 30 miles of the clinic where they provide abortions. Physicians with such privileges are members of the hospital staff, with the ability to admit patients and provide diagnostic and surgical services.

Only one abortion doctor in Louisiana had admission privileges that satisfied the law in February when the Supreme Court issued the stay.

The Supreme Court is hearing the consolidated Louisiana cases Gee v. June Medical Services and June Medical Services v. Gee. The SCOTUSblog case page is here.

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